A Tale That is Told

Granary Theatre, Wells

A familiar voice from BBC Radio, Patience Tomlinson was calm, assured and full of enthusiasm as she lead us on her magical journey to uncover the life and works of Norfolk-born authoress Mary E Mann, a writer whose long career began under the reign of Victoria and ended under Edward VII.

Although Mann's major works are no longer in print, she was an important novelist in her time, attracting accolades from press and fellow writers alike: DH Lawrence was a fan – and may have admired her prodigious output: she wrote a book a year well into her 70s.

The life of this lady of letters was, however, inclined to be humdrum and difficult.

The wife of a Shropham farmer, she spent most of her time looking after the family, and supporting her husband through a difficult era in British farming history.

Luckily, she had the knack of finding the miraculous in the everyday, and a wicked but compassionate sense of humour which allowed her to reveal what was funny and touching in the many Norfolk characters she depicted.

As she flitted from extract to extract, Tomlinson brought each of Mann's descriptions vividly to the stage.

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What a tale! Let's hope that a publisher is found for Mann's works, and this champion of Norfolk and its people will not be forgotten again.

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